MAY 9, 2013 SCREENING: JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (1963)
Jason and the Argonauts (1963) is a great movie, it’s just not my kind of movie. By that, I mean that the film is another movie set in the “sword and sandals” genre of fantasy movies based on Greek mythology. Of the Greek mythology stories, I find this one to be one of the least favorites. It’s also one of the best known of the fantasy films I’m reviewing, and has been discussed thousands of times by other critics. For that reason, I’m not going to spend a lot of time reviewing it here and rehashing what others have covered.
That being said, it is indisputably one of the best adaptations ever of this type of material, and Ray Harryhausen himself considered this to be his best work. Perhaps it is. The specials effects here are top notch for stop motion animation, and the scene where Jason fighting an army of skeletons is perhaps the best I’ve seen in stop motion animation. It makes me wish modern films would go back to techniques like that, and stop trying to make everything out of CGI.
Aside from Harryhausen’s special effects, however, the crew deserve credit all around. Bernard Herrmann’s musical score is top notch, but he’s a legendary film composer as well. More controversially, I’ll point out that Don Chaffey’s direction is also extremely well done. It’s unfortunate that’s he’s virtually unknown outside of this movie aside from some campy movies like One Million Years B.C. , because he did a solid job here and deserves more credit. Great special effects are nothing without a director to put together a well made movie.
Looking bad on the progression of these types of movies, it very well may have peaked with Jason and the Argonauts. There was a three hour TV remake of the same name in 2000, but it didn’t receive nearly the same amount of attention (I haven’t seen it so I won’t comment). Furthermore, the Greek mythology, sword-and-scandal, stop-motion storytelling culminated with 1981’s Clash of the Titans. While it’s a good movie and has some really well made sequences, the overall results are just so-so, and the “modern” remake of that movie even more so. Perhaps they should have quit while they were ahead.
*** ½ out of ****